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  1. #1
    Senior Member Tansy's Avatar
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    New Amtrak baggage policy

    A new baggage policy will be in effect starting September 10, 2012. The key changes include:

    Each passenger can check up to 4 bags - 2 free of charge and 2 for $20 each.
    Each bag in checked baggage is limited to a size of 75 linear inches (length + width + height). Oversize baggage (76 - 100 linear inches) is accepted for $20.00/bag.
    Luggage must be checked 45 minutes prior to scheduled train departure.
    Rates for storage, parcel check will increase to $4.00 ($5.50 at New York Penn Station) per bag for each 24 hour period.
    Special item rates will increase from $5.00 to $10.00. Tandem bicycles and kayaks are no longer accepted.
    Each bag checked must be packed within a suitable container; plastic/rubber storage containers are prohibited.
    Wonder what this means for bicycle trailers. Last time I took my bike on an Amtrak train, They just wheeled the trailer on as is, and suggested tying my panniers together to make 'one suitcase' of them. Total extra charge for luggage was $10. Shame it can't stay that way. Hope they don't get all crazy uptight now.
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  2. #2
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Yeah that is what Amtrak wants to do. Put more restrictions on the passengers. They need to cut schedules and have more arrival departure times in the wee hours of the morning too. That will really encourage ridership.
    Last edited by spinnaker; 09-06-12 at 02:58 PM.
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  3. #3
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    How about those 12-hour delays ... are they incorporating more of those?

  4. #4
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    How about those 12-hour delays ... are they incorporating more of those?
    We can only dream.


    Also that long talked about roll on / roll off service along the Great Allegheny Passage? Hope it never happens. I would much rather take a relaxing hour or two, to box and unbox my bike.
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    That text refers to an oversize bag - does that include a bike box for oversize fee?

    In July, an Amtrak employee told me that:

    - I could only check two bags for free. I told him that is not what the website said. He said that he was trying to get that fixed.
    - He also told me that I could not check any luggage with food in it since food was on the hazardous substance list.
    - And, he said that my four panniers that were bundled with nylon straps so that there were two bundles of two panniers each were not allowed - he said that each pannier would cost $10 after my allowable two items which included the bike box.

    In other words, he was trying to implement parts of the new policy two months early. I had an empty giant duffel in my truck, I put all four panniers worth of gear into the duffel, I had my weight scale that told me to move my spare tire and tools (along with several cans of soup, stew and chili) to my carry on to stay under the weight limit, and I was set.

    We also got a chance to do absolutely nothing for half a day while the train was parked in North Dakota while we waited for them to finish fixing a problem with the tracks.

    20IMGP3789.jpg

    But fortunately, the "Oasis" had a good stout on tap for a very reasonable price.

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    I seriously despise when a company makes their services worse than already problematic services to compensate for lower sales. The closest major public trans system does the same, and keeps griping about lowering profits (cutting routes, less frequent bus and train service, still the same unreliable vehicles for both which often break down, raising rates, saving money by cleaning the vehicles less often, etc.).

    That said, I think it's a cultural thing that rail travel (in general) isn't highly regarded in the U. S. Whether it's public transportation or long distance travel, many people seem to believe trains are basically for 'poor' people, and I've even (rarely but several different times) heard people say trains are for 'criminals on the no-fly list,' 'fugitives,' and basically the 'dregs' of society. Driving or flying are the only acceptable means of travel to a lot of people.

    I wish we could change that, but it's a big mix of changing the image of rail travel to the general public, and changing the quality of rail services. Neither is going to be cheap or easy.
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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkie View Post

    That said, I think it's a cultural thing that rail travel (in general) isn't highly regarded in the U. S. Whether it's public transportation or long distance travel, many people seem to believe trains are basically for 'poor' people, and I've even (rarely but several different times) heard people say trains are for 'criminals on the no-fly list,' 'fugitives,' and basically the 'dregs' of society. Driving or flying are the only acceptable means of travel to a lot of people.

    I wish we could change that, but it's a big mix of changing the image of rail travel to the general public, and changing the quality of rail services. Neither is going to be cheap or easy.
    I disagree. It is the horrible scheduling and length of travel that is the issue. I would much rather take the train then fly or drive but it takes just too darn long to get anywhere. Plus making arrangements is difficult Recently I wanted to go to Portland, ME from Pittsburgh. The darn Amtrak site wasn't smart enough to make the connections.

    I can go to the Trenitalia site and get connections to almost anywhere in Italy and even into neighboring countries. Even if I want to go halfway across the country on a Regionale, the site will figure out all my connections for me. Yet Amtrak can't connect me to Portland unless I do all the figuring myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    I disagree. It is the horrible scheduling and length of travel that is the issue. I would much rather take the train then fly or drive but it takes just too darn long to get anywhere. Plus making arrangements is difficult Recently I wanted to go to Portland, ME from Pittsburgh. The darn Amtrak site wasn't smart enough to make the connections.

    I can go to the Trenitalia site and get connections to almost anywhere in Italy and even into neighboring countries. Even if I want to go halfway across the country on a Regionale, the site will figure out all my connections for me. Yet Amtrak can't connect me to Portland unless I do all the figuring myself.
    I'm curious about popularity of rail travel in the north-east U.S. All I can do is regurgitate what I've heard here, and give anecdotes of my one trip via rail from this area. There seems to be much more route density in the northern part of the country, which would make (reliable) rail travel more accessible there.

    I certainly can't argue about anything you said. Amtrak's site has always been wonky, and I've seen a few people having trouble using it. As far as travel time, my trip took 20% longer via train (not counting wait time at the station, or even leaving a bit late) than it would have by car. At the time it also cost me a bit more than my car would have consumed in fuel for the drive. We spent far too much time crawling along. But then my license was suspended at the time, so driving wasn't an option, and flying would have cost a lot more for that trip.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkie View Post
    At the time it also cost me a bit more than my car would have consumed in fuel for the drive.
    But fuel is only one of the costs involved in car travel.

  10. #10
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    From what I gather after my trip from LA to Seattle some years ago, a lot has to do with the fact the rail tracks are owned by an entity that gives priority to freight rather than passenger trains. The delays on my trip were invariably ended with the passing of one, two or more freight trains. I would gather the same situation exists on other parts of the rail network.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    From what I gather after my trip from LA to Seattle some years ago, a lot has to do with the fact the rail tracks are owned by an entity that gives priority to freight rather than passenger trains. The delays on my trip were invariably ended with the passing of one, two or more freight trains. I would gather the same situation exists on other parts of the rail network.
    Amtrak only owns the tracks in the Northeast US. The rest they are on an agreement of some sort. They are supposed to have priority, but the reality doesn't reflect that. They are at the mercy of of the freight companies that own the tracks.

    Also Amtrak is funded by the government annually, they have no clue how much money they are going to get each year so long range planning is nearly impossible. Imagine if you never knew how much your paycheck was going to be each week, the company just gave you what they felt like, you would have no clue how much to budget for food or housing.

    In addition rail is treated like a red headed step child when it comes to transportation in the US, the lion's share of the dollars go to the road systems and rail gets whatever is left over, if anything.

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  12. #12
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    Regarding the NE corridor, for business travel between DC, NYC and Boston, I take the train every time. No security hassle, don't waste an hour and a half at the airport, departs and arrives in the middle of the city so no travel or parking hassles, and free WiFi so I can work or just surf the net. The price is usually equivalent to airfare, particularly on the faster Acela.

    On the other hand, I'm doing a quick tour from CT to DC in a week and was researching ways to get back home. Amtrak is not an option, unless I have a folding bike, since they don't have baggage cars on the NE Regional or Acela. Cost for the NE Regional is $57 plus whatever it takes to ship the bike and would take 4.5 hours. Alternatively, I can rent a car for $160, pay $50 in gas and tolls, and it will take about the same amount of time. I'd normally take the train option every time if I could bring the bike. Can't do it so I'll be renting the car. More expensive for me, less revenue for Amtrak.

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    Here's another alternative, if you're able to put your bike on a suburban train between NYC and your home. There has been a profusion of inexpensive and reliable bus companies going between NYC & DC in recent years. The 2 companies that I'm familiar with allow you to take a bike with you for free, but I would urge you to check the website of any company you might be interested in for their luggage policy. You don't have to do anything to the bike, just load it into the big baggage compartment. The price for a ticket is generally only $27 to $30. A few companies going from downtown DC to NY: Megabus, BoltBus, DC2NY. A couple from the MD & VA suburbs to NY: TripperBus, Vamoose.

  14. #14
    One less car Jay H's Avatar
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    they are supposedly putting some kind of high speed railline in the NE corridor but I wouldn't hold your breathe.. I live in berkshire county and there is a hubbub about the hi speed rail bypassing Springfield, MA on it's way to Boston... so as you can see, it's still in its infancy if it ever gets done at all. I see the occasional news article on TV...

    I heard rumors of them trying to extend the Metro North/Amtrak line from NYC from the town of Beacon, NY to the Berkshires though NW CT too but again, it's probably a decade+ away...

    Jay

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    Quote Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
    Here's another alternative, if you're able to put your bike on a suburban train between NYC and your home. There has been a profusion of inexpensive and reliable bus companies going between NYC & DC in recent years. The 2 companies that I'm familiar with allow you to take a bike with you for free, but I would urge you to check the website of any company you might be interested in for their luggage policy. You don't have to do anything to the bike, just load it into the big baggage compartment. The price for a ticket is generally only $27 to $30. A few companies going from downtown DC to NY: Megabus, BoltBus, DC2NY. A couple from the MD & VA suburbs to NY: TripperBus, Vamoose.
    It's a good option, just need to get from NYC up to CT on Metro North afterward. Easy enough to get the bike pass and hop the train. Thanks for the reminder ...

  16. #16
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkie View Post
    That said, I think it's a cultural thing that rail travel (in general) isn't highly regarded in the U. S. Whether it's public transportation or long distance travel, many people seem to believe trains are basically for 'poor' people, and I've even (rarely but several different times) heard people say trains are for 'criminals on the no-fly list,' 'fugitives,' and basically the 'dregs' of society. Driving or flying are the only acceptable means of travel to a lot of people.

    I wish we could change that, but it's a big mix of changing the image of rail travel to the general public, and changing the quality of rail services. Neither is going to be cheap or easy.
    I disagree. It is the horrible scheduling and length of travel that is the issue. I would much rather take the train then fly or drive but it takes just too darn long to get anywhere. Plus making arrangements is difficult Recently I wanted to go to Portland, ME from Pittsburgh. The darn Amtrak site wasn't smart enough to make the connections.

    I can go to the Trenitalia site and get connections to almost anywhere in Italy and even into neighboring countries. Even if I want to go halfway across the country on a Regionale, the site will figure out all my connections for me. Yet Amtrak can't connect me to Portland unless I do all the figuring myself.
    I think those are both factors that feed into each other. Train travel was largely supplanted with auto traffic. More and more resources get put into roads and facilitating car travel, and less get put into rail. Result being that passenger trains make do with less and become less reliable/useful, and road travel becomes even more attractive...

    Both road and rail travel survive on tax money, but roads are in favor and rail is not. Certainly there is a lot that could be done to make rail travel more attractive, but most of involves more heavily funding the trains, which isn't a popular option.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    In addition rail is treated like a red headed step child when it comes to transportation in the US, the lion's share of the dollars go to the road systems and rail gets whatever is left over, if anything.
    Aaron
    Actually, when you look at it either on a per person/rider or a per passenger mile basis, transit gets far greater levels of federal funding... Hardly the red headed step child... After all, of course we spend more on roads, the vast majority of our travel as a nation occurs on them, including those who choose a bicycle as their mode of transport...

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    Half the time they don't even know if they have a bike box....

    There web site sucks......

    I can drive faster than the train can go.......

    Most of the time dealing with the people that work there.....they seem like they are off in another world or thinking about their next cell phone call...

    I love riding the Amtrak and Metro,I even like riding the dog,but it can be a real pain in the hiney at times.
    Last edited by Booger1; 09-07-12 at 12:05 PM.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by myrridin View Post
    Actually, when you look at it either on a per person/rider or a per passenger mile basis, transit gets far greater levels of federal funding... Hardly the red headed step child... After all, of course we spend more on roads, the vast majority of our travel as a nation occurs on them, including those who choose a bicycle as their mode of transport...
    This is something that's complex, but I offer the following thoughts.

    1) Federal funding is an important source but it is far from the only funding source for roads. Local and state funding contributes a huge portion to road construction and maintenance. Note: local property taxes pay for a lot of roads, so the commonly heard statement (that roads are paid by user fees in the form of gas taxes) is not correct.

    2) Roads have had, on the federal level (and in most states), a consistent, dedicated funding source, namely the gas tax. Not true for Amtrak. Funding is out of general funds, and that goes up and down depending on the political winds. This means that it is difficult for Amtrak to plan, see post above.

    3) Passenger mile or per person isn't necessarily a good way to determine the adequacy of funding. Amtrak for years has had an equipment shortage, which means that it can't carry as much people as demand would warrant. If Amtrak had sufficient rolling stock, the financial performance would be better.

    4) For all of Amtrak's faults (and I am know many of them, including timid management and inconsistent service), Amtrak's financial performance is among the best in the world for intercity passenger service. It covers more of its costs out of the farebox than most systems in the world.

    5) One problem, as pointed out above, is that Amtrak doesn't control the tracks its trains ride upon, with some important exceptions in the Northeast (and a few other places). Rather than running on a "roadbed" subsidized by various levels of government (such as airlines and bus lines), Amtrak has to contract with private entities (the host railroads) that charge for the use of the tracks with an eye toward profit. In contrast, Greyhound and Megabus don't have to pay anything remotely close to the cost of using the roads, having the benefit of the highway patrol, etc. much of which is paid by non-users through property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes. Airlines don't pay for the full costs of using the air traffic control system, airports, etc. because those are seen as public goods, and some of the costs of air traffic control and the airport system are paid again through local and state funds, and through the military budget.

    6) In my view, the problem is that since the early 1950s, there has been a massive public investment in favor of roads (and to a lesser extent, airports) and there has been only a minimal investment in passenger rail. After decades of that tilt, the relatively small amount on the federal level directed to passenger rail is dwarfed by the investments in highways, thereby perpetuating the role of passenger rail to a relatively small share of the market. One only has to look at other countries with similar population densities (e.g. France has about the same population density as Ohio) to see what can happen when there's smart, effective, consistent, and significant investment in passenger rail.

    7) I have had many good experiences using Amtrak to ship bikes, but there are too many places where that's not an option, and there definitely is room for improvement.

    8) A different poster (Booger1) generalized and suggested that Amtrak's service problems were due to one factor -- government funding. This is just silly. Are most people in the armed forces lazy? How about the Marines? Most must be, according to that poster's logic, because they all are government funded. How about your local firefighters? Police officers? Nurses at veterans hospitals? All government funded, therefore most of them must be lazy, right? Uh huh . . . .

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    There,I fixed that for ya......Don't want anybody loosing sleep.....Your correct,our government workers are the finest in the world,nothing makes me happier than to deal with the government.

    They are doing a fine job,were only losing 4 billion dollars a day......

    If any small private company ran it's business like any government agency,they would either be closed or in prison......GE doesn't count,our government works for them,not us.

    I don't know anybody that has a private army,but there were plenty of lazy people in the service when I was in.....my first shirt looked like he swallowed his brother.....
    Last edited by Booger1; 09-07-12 at 12:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkie View Post
    That said, I think it's a cultural thing that rail travel (in general) isn't highly regarded in the U. S. Whether it's public transportation or long distance travel, many people seem to believe trains are basically for 'poor' people, and I've even (rarely but several different times) heard people say trains are for 'criminals on the no-fly list,' 'fugitives,' and basically the 'dregs' of society. Driving or flying are the only acceptable means of travel to a lot of people.
    I guess that could be part of it, but I`d say its more a logistics thing... if the closest a train can get you to your destination still leaves you having to figure out how to move yourself and your stuff the remaining 200 miles, what good is it? And if you have to figure out how to get 200 miles from home to where you get ON the train (not my issue, but I know it is for others), its the same problem. Grayhound/Trailways, the only bus option for much of the country, is slightly better when it comes to coverage, but not by a whole lot. Bottom line, if public trans "doesn`t go there", it doesn`t do any good whatsoever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by QueueCT View Post
    It's a good option, just need to get from NYC up to CT on Metro North afterward. Easy enough to get the bike pass and hop the train. Thanks for the reminder ...
    You can't bring the bike on peak period trains, off-peak only, and if the train is crowded, the conductor can refuse the bike, just heads up

  23. #23
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    I guess that could be part of it, but I`d say its more a logistics thing... if the closest a train can get you to your destination still leaves you having to figure out how to move yourself and your stuff the remaining 200 miles, what good is it? And if you have to figure out how to get 200 miles from home to where you get ON the train (not my issue, but I know it is for others), its the same problem. Grayhound/Trailways, the only bus option for much of the country, is slightly better when it comes to coverage, but not by a whole lot. Bottom line, if public trans "doesn`t go there", it doesn`t do any good whatsoever.
    I agree, but money won't be spent to fix the problem, but we can continue to pour billions into supporting the automobile and it's infrastructure. I live in an area where there is little to no cycling or pedestrian infrastructure, the road I live on has seen a 400%+ increase in traffic in the past 10 years, they are averaging 6 fatalities a year in a 4 mile stretch, about half pedestrian half motorists, there is a plan to widen the road, starting in 2015, but that plan doesn't include sidewalks or anything to make it safer for cyclists, like wider lanes, shoulders or reduced speeds.

    Aaron
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
    You can't bring the bike on peak period trains, off-peak only, and if the train is crowded, the conductor can refuse the bike, just heads up
    Thanks for the heads up, it will be a Saturday late afternoon so I don't expect any challenges.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueueCT View Post
    On the other hand, I'm doing a quick tour from CT to DC in a week and was researching ways to get back home. Amtrak is not an option, unless I have a folding bike, since they don't have baggage cars on the NE Regional or Acela.
    The Northeast Corridor (Boston-DC and a little beyond) does have checked baggage at some of the stations. However, the last time I checked there was only one corridor train offering checked baggage and it was an overnight train. So technically it is possible to box a bike from Connecticut (at least from New Haven, though they say they don't sell bike boxes: http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...=1229726269512 ) or New York-Penn Station (which would be the easier option for you, I'd assume) and get it to DC. The logistical catch is you'll either have to travel overnight, or the bike will travel on a different train than you.
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